Around 600,000 chickens in Pampanga province, north of Manila, will be culled to help prevent the spread of the H5 avian flu virus, Secretary Emmanuel Piñol of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Wednesday.
“That is a welcome development to us [at the Department of Agriculture]because, according to our experts, if we also depopulate the farms in the seven-kilometer radius that would serve as a buffer zone at ground zero, which means if the periphery is clean, the chances of the virus spreading outside the area will be lessened,” Piñol told reporters in a news briefing.
“As of [Tuesday], a total of 26 farms have been listed to be part of the depopulation process, and this will involve 600,000 fowl,” the Agriculture chief said.
“They [poultry farmers]found it hard to go on with the business because they are not within the one-kilometer radius. They said they cannot sell their eggs and poultry products, and they also said that rather than continuously feed their chickens and earn nothing… they might as well surrender their farms to the government, and allow our quarantine personnel to depopulate their farms,” Piñol added.
The Agriculture department earlier assured poultry farmers that they would be compensated for the culled chickens at P80 per head and will offer them recovery package.
It put at P52.8 million the total compensation for the affected poultry farmers.
Piñol said the Philippine Army will deploy hundreds of personnel in the town of San Luis, Pampanga, to help the DA in the culling of fowl affected by the H5 avian flu virus.
He added that he asked the Army to help them depopulate the farms after more poultry farmers outside the one-kilometer radius controlled zone in San Luis opted to surrender their birds to the government for culling in order to tide them over and help in stopping an avian flu outbreak.
Brigadier General Rodel Mario Alarcon of the Philippine Army confirmed to Piñol that he can send at least 300 personnel to help in the culling of some 600,000 chickens affected by the flu virus.
“This [the process]is not so easy because we have to vaccinate the people first, we will vaccinate the soldiers and then we will give them vitamins before we deploy them to the area,” Piñol said.
The Agriculture department has also asked Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald de la Rosa for more police personnel to man quarantine stations.
Piñol said 20 personnel from the Bureau of Animal Industry will be deployed for surveillance within the controlled zone.
He reported that, as of August 16, a total of 73,110 commercial and backyard chicken layers, ducks, fighting cocks and native chickens have been culled.
Piñol said he had ordered the investigation of the chief quarantine officer of the Port of Batangas after they received reports that some 1,500 chicken eggs from Candaba town, also in Pampanga, and Batangas were seized in Caticlan port in Aklan province in the Visayas in violation of an earlier memorandum issued by the Agriculture department banning the shipment of poultry and poultry products from Luzon to other parts of the country.
The bird flu outbreak in the country, according to the Agriculture chief, only has “minimal effect” on the economy.
“Actually, it has more impact on the psychological side because many people now are not eating chicken and other poultry products, so the demand for chickens will decrease and certainly the poultry industry will suffer but we would be able to recover from this,” he said.
“The recovery period will take beyond three months, but we will make sure that we provide enough support for the poultry farmers. I have talked to the mayor of San Luis and other towns on how we can help them even outside the poultry industry like what I’ve seen in San Luis, it has vast rice fields, and the only problem is that it has no water, so I talked to the NIA [National Irrigation Administration] today, Wednesday, that we have to provide water to San Luis so that the farmers can cultivate their rice fields there,” Piñol added.
He urged poultry farmers from other parts of the country to intensify their production to make for any shortfall caused by the avian flu outbreak in Pampanga.
In response to the recent bird flu outbreak in Pampanga, Philippine Red Cross Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Gordon has instructed all PRC chapters nationwide to monitor their respective communities against the virus.
According to the Department of Health (DoH), avian influenza is a viral infection that spreads among birds but can infect humans as well.
It said it can be transmitted to humans through inhalation or contamination with infected discharges of feces of sick birds such as chickens.
To halt the spread of the virus, the PRC chapters all over the country immediately activated 143 volunteers to keep an eye on their areas and report possible bird flu outbreak to the PRC Operations Center.
Through this, the PRC can immediately relay any information to the DA and DoH for proper verification and validation.
Various areas are on high alert especially where there are poultry farms, public markets, cockpits and homes with fighting cocks, foul or pets.
The common symptoms of bird flu on humans are fever, body weakness or muscle pain, cough, sore throat, sore eyes and diarrhea in some persons, as well as, difficulty of breathing in a week’s time from onset in severe cases.
Moreover, the PRC continuously conducts public awareness campaign about the virus as part of a broad avian influenza pandemic prevention.
It urges the public to take precautionary measures to avoid the risk of bird flu such as reporting unusual deaths of chicken or any birds, washing their hands with soap and water after handling live or dressed poultry products, cooking poultry products thoroughly, protecting one’s self by using masks, goggles and gloves while handling sick chickens/birds, isolating infected person and seeking immediate medical treatment if such symptoms are observed.